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Archaeology Matters

Reflections on Archaeology

The cover of the report.

An important new report has been published by the British Academy on the current state of archaeology in Britain. The report emphasises the need for a single authoritative voice for the discipline and recommends that, as a matter of urgency, the major stakeholder organisations come together to find a solution to the problem that in its considered view threatens the future health of the discipline.

The Reflections on Archaeology project was launched in 2016 to celebrate the significant strengths in UK archaeology and honestly reflect on the challenges it needs to tackle if it is to continue to thrive. Three roundtables entitled “What archaeology is, what it does and how it tackles global challenges and global questions”, “The educational landscape of archaeology across the life course”, and “Speaking for the discipline” were held over 2016 bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders.

The report to reflect the outcomes of the roundtables has been put together by a group of academic authors from across the UK, led by Professor Graeme Barker FBA of the University of Cambridge. Prof Barker said, “As we witnessed with the astonishing discovery of the remains of Richard III in Leicester, British archaeology has huge gravitas on the global stage.

“According to the latest QS world university rankings, the four top-ranked archaeology departments in the world are in Britain, and there is enormous public interest in new discoveries.

“However, as this report makes clear, we face significant challenges to protect our fragile archaeological resource for future research, education and public enjoyment. In taking an honest approach to the current state of UK archaeology, we hope that the British Academy’s report will go some way to addressing these challenges and highlighting how crucial it is that we do not see archaeology become a thing of the past.”

At the launch event at the British Academy on 29 March, the CBA’s Director, Dr Mike Heyworth MBE, welcomed the new report and agreed that there was much to celebrate, “Archaeologists working in Britain are world leaders in academic research and teaching, in professional practice, and in public engagement, and there is huge public enthusiasm for the work of archaeologists across the UK.

“However, we face a range of challenges including the recent loss of A-Level Archaeology, Brexit related threats to research funding, the ongoing impact of public sector cutbacks on local government historic environment services, planning reforms reducing the protection of our archaeological heritage in England, and continuing poor standards of pay and conditions for many highly-skilled colleagues which makes it harder to attract new entrants to the profession. 

“The CBA is keen to participate in discussions with anyone who can add value to our work. We would agree that now, more than ever, is the time to put aside organisational divides and historical traditions to stand back and consider what is best for archaeology in Britain. We look forward to working with the British Academy and other key stakeholders to enhance existing collaborations and face up to the challenges that confront us.”

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